From overcrowding and long waiting times to experiencing rude or irritated fellow drivers and passengers and the ever-increasing expense of petrol and train tickets, research has shown that commuting can seriously affect our health in the long run. One major issue discovered in the findings is the increase in stress levels due to the commute. Stress in itself contributes to any number of other health concerns including raised blood pressure and increased Body Mass Index (weight gain) which both have their separate health risks in their own rights.
With an average commute of just under an hour each day, this lengthy sedentary period of inactivity can eventually affect physical health, mental health and general wellbeing. ‘Super Commuter’ was a term coined in 2012 for those living and working in two different cities as well as as a reference to those spending over 3 hours commuting each day. During this time, your blood pressure and your cortisol levels are raised along with your adrenaline, and in turn, this can increase your risk of having a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack. But how else does your daily commute affect your health?
Commuting can put pressure on your respiratory system with a raised exposure to traffic-related air pollution. According to medical experts at Click Pharmacy, this kind of exposure can cause symptoms, including:
- pains in the chest
Eventually, this can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory conditions and even lung cancer.
Although driving may not be avoidable for many people, if you can find another route to work, then this could benefit your health greatly, especially as toxins including formaldehyde are a component of indoor air pollution too making your work environment often as polluted as your commute!
Try to counteract these effects by ensuring the air in the places you spend the most time, such as work and home, are as purified as possible. You can buy an air purifier, use air cleansing plants such as peace lilies which absorb CO2 and release oxygen or try purifying hot stone candles.
Studies showed that:
- longer commutes affect wellbeing with a third of commuters suffering from depression
- nearly half of those in the research group were getting below the 7 hours of sleep needed a night
- almost a quarter were more likely to be severely overweight with people making bad food choices when bored or tired on the early or late journey.
Mental health takes a huge hit when travelling for long daily periods. If you are already in a poor or low mood, you are sat with thoughts which can be detrimental to your health, or you may find yourself reacting to other drivers badly and getting angry or frustrated which further compounds your mood. Alongside this, research has found that those doing long commutes feel a greater sense of time pressure which in turn upped their feeling of stress. These little day-to-day moments of stress can add up in the long run, to become a chronic stress condition and lower satisfaction in life overall as found in a 2015 study by Canada’s University of Waterloo.
To counteract the effects on your mental health of commuting, make sure you arrange to spend time taking part in healthy activities which will increase your life satisfaction levels and make you physically healthier. Doing so can combat those feelings that you are missing out on time with your friends, children or partner as well as other activities you enjoy due to your long commute.
These plans, which you should attempt to do several times a week, may include stress-lowering past times, including cooking, exercising, eating well, spending time with loved ones and even getting plenty of sleep. You could also look to join a group once a week, such as a book club, chess club, church study group or sports team. In fact, it has been shown that commuters who still made time for such activities were able to overcome some of the adverse effects on their health.
When sitting still for long stretches of time, you are likely to make poor dietary choices; either a quick fast-food breakfast from the station or a drive-through dinner alongside a mayonnaise and calorific sandwich at lunchtime. Packing some healthy snacks for your journey could help you overcome the desire to stop and grab a chocolate bar at a garage when you are feeling peckish on your way home.
Losing several hours of day time when you could have been active in some way means the body is losing opportunities to remain fit and at a healthy weight. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2012 linked long commutes to cardiovascular and metabolic disease and weight gain, which in itself is linked to high blood pressure and diabetes. Worryingly, even shorter commutes can pose health risks with 10-mile commutes being related to heightened blood pressure! So if you can commute via cycling or walking even just once or twice a week, it is worth doing it for the health benefits alone.
Overcoming The Negative Effects
Studies have shown that in some cases, the adverse effects of a commute can be overcome by how people view this time spent travelling. When commuters see it as a break from commitments and other responsibilities and take part in something more enjoyable such as listening to a podcast or music, writing or relaxing and taking in the view (for those travelling on a train), it was seen that this time could be beneficial to their health.
It can also be considered an effective mental break between work and home. See your time spent travelling to work as preparation for the day ahead, and the evening commute as your chance to leave issues at work behind, helping you to feel mentally prepared in the morning and more relaxed in the evening.
If you have any concerns or worries about your health due to a lack of vitamin D, you can speak to one of our experts at Click Pharmacy online via email or Skype for advice and support.